Iraq 3 Yemen 0
January 12 – The Yemen story continued tonight. The newcomers from the war torn country who have become every neutral’s favourite team played Iraq, the old boys who wrote the script when it comes to manufacturing football teams out of war zones. The Iraqis won 2-0, the Yemenis won more friends, respect and global attention.
Iraq is rebuilding, the football team too. The Lions of Mesopotamia made the semi-finals in 2015 and even won the competition in 2007. The result of rebuilding is showing some promise but Iraq have their sternest match-up yet against Iran in their final match of the group – both have qualified for the last 16.
Iraq’s Mohanad Ali Kadhim has scored four goals in his last six international matches, including Iraq’s first goal against Vietnam. And true to form it was Kadhim who opened the scoring on just 11 minutes with a right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom right corner of the Yemen goal.
Yemen have lost seven of their last eight international games with their only win coming against Nepal in March 2018. Their fortune wasn’t about to change and in the 19th minute Iraq doubled their lead with Kadhim this time providing the assist for Bashar Resan Bonyan whose right footed shot from outside the box found the bottom right corner of Saoud Al-Sowadi’s goal.
It couldn’t have been the start of a massacre but mercifully it wasn’t. Not because the Iraqis took their foot off the gas but because the Yemenis fought and luck stayed with them. Putting your body on the line doubtless has a different meaning in Yemen, but that is what they did, flying to block shots, throwing themselves into tackles and generally doing whatever possible to keep the waves of Iraqi attacks out. The had their own chances as well.
Football, however, is cruel and in the 91st minute Iraq scored a third. Ahmed Yaseen Gheni fed Alla Abbas whose left foot shot from the centre of the box flew high into the net. Cruel perhaps but not against the run of play.
Iran go on to face old enemies Iraq while Yemen will next battle for their pride against a proud Vietnamese team.
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